26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Woe to the complacent.”  That is a very difficult saying from our first reading this morning.  Yet Scripture often reminds us that this world is not our homeland.  We live in this world as pilgrims; we are on a journey.  We can live very comfortably in this world and it can become easy, at times, to forget that we were not made for this world, but for the next.  Heaven is our goal and we must struggle to keep focused on that goal lest we become too attached to this world.

In the second reading, Saint Paul encourages us to pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. 
We cannot merely sit back and expect to grow in faith or in love; Saint Paul says that we have to pursue these things.  That might sound strange.  We have to pursue love?  Yes.

We were made in the image of God, and therefore we are made in the image of love; we were made for love (for communion with God and with others) but because of our fallen human nature, we have to work at loving God and loving others.  We were created for love and yet God had to become a man and give us commandments to love.  The two greatest commandments, given to us by Our Lord are only His attempt to get us to love as we were created to love.

We also have to pursue faith and the other virtues.  Every single one of us here this morning has the gift of faith (we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have faith).  We are not Catholics simply because we were raised that way or because we chose to become Catholics.  We are Catholics because God has called us.  Perhaps He called us through our parents, if we were baptized as infants.  But the fact that you are here this morning is a result of the gift of faith that God has given to you.  Faith is one of the gifts that the Holy Spirit gave to our souls in Baptism.  We have faith and Saint Paul tells us that we have to pursue faith.  We have to work to deepen our faith.  We have to learn about our faith and nourish it with prayer.  We have to put forth effort to develop the virtues and live our faith out in our day-to-day lives.

Saint Paul tells us to “compete well for the faith.”  Saint Paul often speaks of the spiritual life as a battle, or a competition, or a race.  Saint Paul exhorts us to fight the good fight, to strive for the crown of victory, to run the race so as to win.

Athletes train very hard in order to win the competition.  They deny themselves many things and keep a strict discipline over themselves in order to prepare their bodies to compete.  If an athlete were to become complacent, if an athlete decided that they were “good enough” as they were and gave up training for a competition, how well do you think that that athlete would compete?  Athletes are never complacent.  They always work and train hard to become the best possible athlete that they can be.  They want to not only compete: they want to excel; they want to win.

When Saint Paul tells us to compete well for the faith, he is telling us that we should not be complacent: we should not be satisfied with where we are in our relationship with God.  We should continually strive to deepen our relationship with Our Lord.  Fr. John has a great analogy for the spiritual life: he compares the spiritual life with standing on a down-escalator.  If you stand still on the down-escalator, you will be standing still, you will be going down.  We have a weak fallen nature which is inclined towards sin.  We cannot stand still when it comes to our spiritual life.  If we are not working to draw closer to God, we are being drawn away from Him.

Let us all be on guard against complacency.  Let us ask Our Lord for the grace to grow in our faith and in our love.  Lord Jesus Christ, help us to draw closer to you every day.  Help us to deepen our faith and help us to love You and others as you call us to do, as you created us to.  Never allow our hearts to grow complacent, Lord, but help us to compete well for the faith.  Amen.